Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Who Drives for Uber and Why?

Jonathan Hall and Alan Krueger have published a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper about Uber.  They explore the backgrounds and motivations of Uber drivers.   Many people have been critical of Uber, arguing that it is wrong for Uber not to treat their drivers as employees (they treat them as independent contractors).  Others have been debating the impact of the so-called "gig economy" - does it help or hurt the average worker?  For these and other reasons, the scholars found it interesting to explore survey data from 2014-2015 about Uber drivers.  The findings are fascinating.  Here are selected excerpts from the paper.  You can read more here.

Uber's driver-partners are highly educated. Nearly half of Uber's driver-partners (48 percent) have a college degree or higher, considerably greater than the corresponding percentage for taxi drivers and chauffeurs (18 percent), and above that for the workforce as a whole as well (41 percent).

In addition, most driver-partners do not appear to turn to Uber out of desperation or because they face an absence of other opportunities in the job market—only eight percent were unemployed just before they started working on the Uber platform—but rather because the nature of the work, the flexibility, and the compensation appeals to them compared with other available options.

Around 80 percent of driver-partners reported that they were working full- or part-time hours just before they started driving on the Uber platform. Only eight percent of driverpartners in 2014 (and 10 percent in 2015) said they were unemployed just prior to partnering with Uber. This low percentage is notable given that, for the economy overall, about 25 percent of new hires came from unemployment and 70 percent came from nonemployment in 2014 and 2015.13 The large share of drivers who partnered with Uber while they had another job suggests the role that Uber plays in supplementing individuals’ income from other sources.

In 2015, 52 percent of driver-partners worked full-time on another job, 14 percent of driver-partners had a part-time job apart from partnering with Uber, and 33 percent of driver-partners had no other job.

Nearly half of driver-partners view income earned on the Uber platform as a supplement to their income but not a significant source (48 percent).

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